Saturday, October 18, 2014

Poland - Europe's veggie garden

As we rode further and further into Poland, the landscapes became familiar to me… Problem was, I didn't know why? I had never been here before and it didn't remind me of any of the countries we visited during this trip around the world either. I searched my memory for images from places I had been before, places that might be similar to where I was now. Yet every country I had been to in the past, either for work or on holidays didn't remind me of Poland at all. It wasn't until I'd gone back to my childhood that I realised why. It wasn't a holiday destination, it wasn't even abroad… It reminded me of the country I was born in, as it was 40 odd years ago…!

Holland, in my childhood, still had farms. I can vividly remember, sitting in the back of my fathers Volkswagen Beetle, simply leaving town meant riding straight into the countryside. Cows along the road and the smell of manure. It was a countryside pretty similar to what I found today in Poland, or at least that's what my memory is telling me. The sad thing is that the countryside in Holland has changed dramatically since then, and not for the better. Looking around Holland now, it seems most of the farms have disappeared. The smaller farms have been bought by rich people to be used as their 'country retreat'. The farms that are still there have become huge, almost industrial complexes. As a result the landscape has changed with it.

In north and central Poland the farms seem much smaller and the same goes for the machinery. Riding through this part of Poland is like riding through a huge veggie garden, but a veggie garden worked at by many small farmers. Lack of mountains or even hills means the horizon is pretty far away. The old little Ursus tractors are still plentiful, pottering about in a leisurely pace that doesn't seem possible in the western part of Europe anymore. No wonder there are so many of them about as Ursus tractors are made in Poland. Still, Ursus is changing too. They now make huge tractors as well and the Ursus factory even sponsors a rally team!

Of course you won't see the images you see here if you stay on the main highways. Not that the farms aren't there; you just won't see them as you'll be stuck in traffic. We took the smaller roads. Most of them were bitumen but don't get any fancy ideas just yet… they are nothing more than cobblestone roads with a thin layer of tar poured over them. Result? A suspension test! Progress is slow as there are many small towns along the way as well.

Of course it's not only farming in Poland. But for me the farming simply stood out. Norway is all about impressive landscapes, Poland is green, friendly and… farming, farming as it used to be in my childhood.